"The Voice of Hope was Silent"
By Diana Gardner-Williams
We arrived at our favorite mountain cabin on Christmas Eve of 2003. This particular accommodation provided a kitchenette, loft, cable TV, and indoor Jacuzzi tub. The back deck overlooked a steep, wooded hill with a pleasantly loud, rushing creek barely visible through the trees. The evergreen shrubs flanking the entrance of the cabin twinkled with multicolor lights and a holiday mug filled with candy was centered on our kitchen table welcoming us. Since we usually spent Christmas with our family, we were unaware of the charming decorations provided by the owners at this time of year.
So why were we here? The fact that our beautiful baby boy was born quiet and still brought us to the cabin in the mountains. This was where we would spend our first Christmas without our baby.
My name is Diana Gardner-Williams and I am originally from Buffalo, NY. I moved to North Carolina to study Landscape Architecture and decided to make my home here. The weather was more conducive to my career choice. I also met my wonderful husband Todd and we married in 2000.
It wasn't until 2002 that we decided to expand our family. I had originally planned to try for a baby in May, but then decided to try in August. I have always been a very planned and organized individual and thought having birthday parties in spring would be ideal. There would be an explosion of flowers, no mosquitoes, and the weather would be tolerable.
Finally, after 6 long months of charting and taking my temperature, we saw two pink lines. It was apparent that I could not plan when my baby would be born. Our child was scheduled for a fall arrival, another favorite season of mine.
It was a very exciting time for us because several of our friends were also pregnant. The excitement faded for a while because my morning sickness lasted into the night. I never threw up, although maybe hurling my cookies would have lessened the discomfort. Constant nausea made me unpleasant to be around. It wasn't until week 12 that the morning sickness passed and I was scheduled to see the doctor.
At the appointment I was able to see the little heartbeat for the first time, and wow, it was amazing. That little organ was created by us only 3 months ago! The baby and me were given a good report and were scheduled to see the doctor in 2 more months, hopefully to find out the sex.
My girlfriend and her husband owned their own sonogram machine, so I knew we would find out the sex beforehand. Todd and I anxiously drove to their office when I was 15 weeks along to see our little baby. Unfortunately we couldn't see the sex, but we did see a very active child. The entire 30 minutes was on tape, and I couldn't wait to show family members what a beautiful child we had.
My husband came with me to the doctor's appointment where we would find out if the little one would wear blue or pink. I was very nervous because both my mother and mother-in-law expressed their hopes for a little girl. We claimed we didn't care either way, but secretly I was hoping for a boy.
We stared at the monitor like 2 kids staring at a glass candy jar. We could see that something was in there that we wanted, but the packaging camouflaged what it really was. Then she pointed toward the screen to a white, opaque section. It was a penis. There is was, so tiny, and the affirmation we were waiting for. We were thrilled, blue, blue, and more blue. Tanner would be my parent's third grandson and my mother-in-law's first grandbaby. I knew that they were somewhat disappointed, but would love him regardless.
It seemed like the entire pregnancy was moving from one aliment to the next. The first three months it was the nausea, and then it was the round ligament stretching and finally the severe backaches. Towards the last few weeks I endured horrible indigestion and probably bruised ribs from Tanner's kicks. Truthfully, I did not enjoy my pregnancy and I couldn't wait to have him out. I would later find out that I had stage 4 arthritis in my knees and carrying extra weight added to the stress. I would definitely take a rest from being pregnant after Tanner was born so my body could somewhat heal.
Tanner was due to arrive October 14th. However, on my husband's birthday I started having contractions that were closer together. I had bought Todd a gift and decided to let him open it in case this is the day Tanner would come. The contractions now were less than 2 minutes apart, so I had Todd call the doctor for guidance. We were instructed to come in for a check.
I called my best friend Evelyn to come over and join us at the hospital. My bags had been packed for 2 months and everything in its place, so we easily slipped out of the house in a timely fashion at 2am. I was so excited and felt in my heart that Tanner would be born on Todd's birthday.
The hospital was incredibly quiet and still as we checked in. We were quickly led to a small examining room to check the progress of labor. I undressed and lay on the table while Todd stood by my side like a proud father to be. My cervix was still closed, but obviously having contractions.
The ultrasound technician rolled her machine beside me and poured the cold lubricant on my belly. For some reason there were more nurses in the room now, and the technician just stared at the monitor expressionless. Another nurse put an oxygen mask on my face and I was horrified. Finally someone said that the baby is probably hiding and giving me oxygen might increase his activity. That never happened. After seeing panic in my eyes, Todd asked if Tanner was moving. The technician kept her eyes on the monitor and said simply, "No, I'm sorry."
At that moment I entered into another world that was so unfamiliar to me. This was a place that I had no control over and I could not plan my next move. I had never felt this much pain, loneliness, or the need to grasp for air like this in my life. Could this be real? We held him, kissed him and loved him, where is he? We would never be the same. We did expand our family, but instead of having a living son, we had a beautiful angel named Tanner.
We were inundated with information on how to survive the first year. Most of the bereavement books and literature suggested taking time for ourselves and gracefully declining family gatherings until we were more comfortable. That is exactly what we decided to do. Thanksgiving was spent at a friend's home and for Christmas, the two of us drove to our favorite mountain cabin in Spruce Pine.
I packed candles, a lullaby cd, pictures of Tanner, and everything else reminiscent of him to create a shrine. I just wanted to think and feel everything about him during our stay. My eyes were so sore and red from crying so much.
Todd suggested that we get some fresh air and drive into the city of Ashville and shop. On our way to town I expressed to Todd that I was upset that so many of our friends and family members felt that they had been contacted by Tanner. The bear that played Ave Maria, the street sign "Tanner Williams," the parent yelling for Tanner at the park. Being his parents, I couldn't understand why we weren't given any signs from him. I told Todd that I wanted my big sign.
We spent several hours in town and the weather was gorgeous. I remember the quaint shops and brick-laid alleys that added to its charm. The sun sets very fast in the mountains, so we headed back to our cabin around 5. While staring out of the window of our car, something caught my eye. My heart started to flutter and the palms of my hands were dripping with sweat. I was briefly in shock and had to snap out of it fast to tell Todd to pull over and stop.
There it was so high in the sky that I could not possibly miss it. It was a billboard that said "TANNER." The hair on the back of my neck stood on its end and Todd sat quietly gazing at the sign. I quickly searched for the camera to take a picture, just in case it disappeared in a flash. After sitting on the side of the road for 10 minutes, we slowly drove off.
We were meant to see that billboard at that precise time in our lives. The sequence of events played in perfect harmony. We were there because of Tanner and he blessed us with one of the biggest signs available to man.
Seeing the billboard gave us so much hope and joy to keep going. Feeling his presence at just the right time spoke worlds to me. Our son being born quiet and still put life into a much different perspective for me. I now view our time here as just a stepping-stone. I truly believe we will all be together again and Tanner's beautiful song will keep playing for me until I can hold him forever.
Peace Love and Hugs from Above
Copyright © 2007 Diana Gardner-Williams
Diana Gardner-Williams is the mother of 3-year-old son, 2 early pregnancy losses and 1 stillbirth. Nearly 3 years after losing her stillborn son Tanner, Diana set out to provide a creative outlet for parents to acknowledge and preserve the legacy of their "angel babies". Sadly, in 2016 she passed away.